'Drunk' Lawmaker Fights Blind Lawmaker In Capitol Parking Lot Because West Virginia
The Virginia General Assembly, now under new Democratic management, has done great work lately, with only one unfortunate exception. The state's counterparts to the west are less impressive. Tuesday, West Virginia House Del. Rob Porterfield, who is blind, accused another delegate, who was allegedly drunk at the time, of bullying him in the capitol parking lot. That's an apparently normal thing that happened.
Porterfield didn't identify his drunken bully by name during a floor speech, but he "indicated" it was fellow Republican Brandon Steele. The high school gymnasium-style throw down was over House Bill 4043, which involves the health insurance of state workers. The measure would've required their spouses with non-cushy state jobs to go on their employers' most likely crappy insurance or pay premiums to the state. This was not a popular bill, and opponents argued its passage would've resulted in the third teachers' strike in three years (the streak continues!).
Supporters of the bill claimed it would've saved the Public Employees Insurance Agency up to $45 million and stabilized the program. There was intense debate about the bill, which was eventually defeated in an 11-11 vote. Democrats sent a letter to Gov. Jim Justice demanding a permanent fix for PEIA funding.
So, we get that things are heated, but we can't approve of drunk people threatening the blind. Debates about health care shouldn't result in anyone immediately needing health care. Porterfield asked his colleagues to discipline Steele with an iron hand.
PORTERFIELD: We're here to make laws. We're here to do things the right way. ... If I had treated someone with a disability — a member of this House with a disability the way I was treated last night, I would want someone to take action against me. I think there needs to be further action taken on this.
This might've been a more moving appeal to kindness and decency if Porterfield himself wasn't completely lacking in kindness and decency. Last year, while expressing his support for anti-LGBT legislation, he used a gay slur on the House floor. He admittedly was only citing the title of Milo Yiannopoulos's speaking tour, but that's almost more offensive. He's also called the LGBTQ community the "modern-day version of the Klu Klux Klan." That's both insulting and ignorant of the continued existence of the KKK. He's comparing queer apples to racist oranges. The LGBTQ community is fierce but not violent. No one's ever been lynched at a gay nightclub.
Porterfield also goes out in public and gives interviews while wearing a MAGA hat, which some have compared to a modern-day Klan hood, but I won't do that because as previously stated, the KKK still exists.
Parking lots are probably a triggering location for Porterfield, because his eyes were gouged out during a fight in the parking lot of an Indiana sports bar. These are good reasons to avoid both Indiana and sports bars.
Democrat Del. Sammi Brown said she was "blown away" by the whole debate. She also threw shade on the scaredy cat and noted that she and other delegates have received actual death threats. Del. Danielle Walker had enough of all this crap and thought it was time that everyone started acting like they had some sense.
WALKER: We lack home training. We lack respect for each other. We lack the ability to see someone's disabilities. We make assumptions, presumptions and accusations. ... Some of you even forget where you came from or don't know that part of your history or choose not to respect or acknowledge it.
Steele is the lead sponsor of HB 4043. It remains unclear what his beef was with Porterfield. Maybe he just spent time with him.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."